Skip to main content

Scrapbook. Pictures of people and places at home & abroad. African and other photographs., 1860s and 1870s

 Record Group — Album: 34
Identifier: 34

Scope and Contents

The African section of the scrapbook opens with a portrait from the series taken by 10th Company Royal Engineers of the Abyssinian Campaign in 1868. It shows Colonel Grant among the group of staff posing with General Sir Robert Napier and is a different image from no. 49 in catalogue item 3 (Object 3.49). On the verso of the page are three news-clippings, one a picture of Christ Church, Zanzibar and the other two consist of a brief notice and picture of and about the Mission Steamer ‘Charles Janson’ on Lake Nyasa. Then follow eleven pages, mainly stereoscopic prints of photographs taken by Grant in Zanzibar in 1860. Most are annotated in manuscript by Grant.


  • 1860s and 1870s


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

To inquire about access to this collection, please contact the Herskovits Library at

Historic Notes

James Augustus Grant (1827-92), one of the most significant explorers of Africa, received a commission in the Bengal army in 1846 and fought in the Indian mutiny of 1857. In 1860, he joined John Hanning Speke on an expedition to East Africa - an expedition which yielded highly important geographical results. Before making mainland Africa, the two explorers stayed in Zanzibar where Grant took the photographs contained in his scrapbook. They traveled to the region South of Lake Victoria. The arduous journey and difficulties they encountered en route proved worthwhile when they discovered the source of the White Nile. They continued on foot to Gondokoro and then traveled down the Nile by steamer to Khartoum, and from Khartoum to England. During the expedition Grant made valuable botanical and meteorological notes; he served in the intelligence department in the Abyssinian Campaign of 1868 when he was promoted lieutenant-colonel; his book, A walk across Africa (1864) won the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society of London (See Hill, Biographical Dictionary of the Sudan, p. 142).

Biographical / Historical

Grant’s stereoscopic images are of extreme importance in the history of photography in Africa; they are most certainly amongst the earliest known photographs of Zanzibar and East Africa. Other examples of Grant’s early photographs may be found in the collection of the Royal Geographical Society, London (Grant having donated some of his photographs to the R.G.S). The importance and context of Grant's photographs taken in Zanzibar in 1860 is illustrated by the following extract from An outline history of photography in Africa by David Killingray and Andrew Roberts:

'The slow and cumbersome procedures required of early photographers inevitably restricted use of the medium outside the studio. Until the 1870s, photography was rarely attempted in Africa far beyond the main centres of European settlement. Special interest thus attaches to photographs of the Sotho King Moshweshwe in 1860, at Aliwal North; these were made by Frederick Young who accompanied Prince Alfred's touring party. In tropical Africa, climatic conditions presented particular hazards to the preparation and preservation of photographic plates. Pierre Trémaux, who travelled up the Blue Nile in 1847, published a splendid album which includes several photographs of black African slaves but these would all seem to have been taken in Mediterranean towns. In 1845-8 the French naval officer Charles Guillain surveyed the east African coast, and two of his ensigns were credited with drawings and daguerreotypes from which was derived a fine album of lithographs: the photographs were the basis of sixteen plates illustrating local physiognomies from Somalia to southern Tanzania, including ‘Nyasa’, Chagga and Gurage. Photographs were taken in Lagos in 1860, though the details are still obscure. The earliest surviving photographs from the interior of tropical Africa are probably those made by John Kirk in 1858-62, while serving as botanist on Livingstone's Zambezi expedition. Kirk experimented with at least three techniques, with considerable success, though while up-country he appears to have limited his subjects to buildings, boats and vegetation. Grant took photographic equipment on Speke’s Nile expedition of 1860-3, and used it to some effect in Zanzibar, but once on the mainland he gave up such efforts and instead produced some remarkable attractive coloured sketches. In 1873-4 Gerhard Rohlfs took a camera on his expedition to oases in the Libyan Desert, west of Asyut on the Nile. Sixteen sepia photographs are reproduced in his account of the expedition, including a fine panorama of the town of Qasr-Dakhla, and some good portraits. The first explorer to take dry-plate apparatus to tropical Africa was probably Stanley, on his expedition across the continent in 1875-6.’


1 album (1 album, 15 p., 26 x 32 cm.) : Small folio (32 x 26 cm.); contemporary half roan, marbled boards, label on upper cover, handwritten paper label on the upper cover; extremities rubbed; housed in a fine, modern black morocco-backed box, gilt lettering to spine.


Personal scrapbook entitled, ‘Pictures of people and places at home and abroad. African and other Photographs’. 1860s and 1870s. Only a portion of the contents is related to Africa and the rest relates to Europe, including postcards and a few photographs.

Related Material

An outline history of photography in Africa by Killingray, David and Roberts, Andrew, 1937-

Library Details

Part of the Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies Repository

Main Library, 5th Floor, East Tower
1970 Campus Drive
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US